News Feature

Deer Isle
Originally published in Island Ad-Vantages, July 11, 2013
Two-island effort helps needy students in El Salvador

by Jessica Brophy

Byron Thomas, now a senior at Vinalhaven High School, began traveling to El Salvador a few years ago to do humanitarian outreach in rural villages.

Coffee is the business there, and Thomas—with the help of a few others—decided to help ship some of that coffee to the states and sell it to help fund education.

A ton of coffee was shipped to the states, and Thomas and his teacher, Tristan Jackson, picked up 150 pounds to sell on Vinalhaven. But first, the green coffee beans need roasting. And that’s where 44 North comes in.

“We offered to roast the beans free of charge,” said co-owner Megan Dewey-Wood. Only one obstacle remained: getting the coffee from Vinalhaven to Stonington to be roasted.

“We brought the beans over on Sid Beckman’s lobster boat,” said Thomas. The boat came into Billings Diesel and Marine and was then offloaded and trucked up to Deer Isle.

About 35 pounds of the coffee were then roasted for 15 minutes. Thomas said the coffee tasted “amazing.”

It costs $275 per student to attend high school, said Thomas. With the average fieldworker making about $10 a day, that puts high school education out of reach for many El Salvador students.

Thomas hopes to raise enough from the sale of the coffee to sponsor two students for two years. The coffee will be roasted over the course of the summer and sold on Vinalhaven during the weekly flea market there.

Donations can be sent to Byron Thomas, P.O. Box 695, Vinalhaven 04863. Thomas can be reached at